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The Movie Like Tombstone That Western Fans Need To Watch

Few genres have proven quite as enduring in Hollywood as the time-honored Western. While the genre itself is nowhere near as prominent as it was during its '50s and '60s heyday, filmmakers are still cranking out ponderous, often violent tales of stoic lawmen, unruly outlaws, and all manner of colorful characters in between with some regularity. It's safe to say, however, few modern Westerns have become quite as well-loved over the years as 1993's gun-slinging thrill ride "Tombstone."

Set largely in the titular Arizona boomtown, "Tombstone" finds Kurt Russell in rarified form as legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, whose plans to retire quietly in the burgeoning outpost are upended when a lawless band of frontier toughs begins wreaking havoc on the town. Pressed back into service, Earp and a trusted band of allies promptly saddle up and throw down against their ruthless foes in vintage Western movie fashion – i.e., loads of tough talk, a couple of deadly shootouts, and one utterly unforgettable, high noon-styled showdown via the legendary O.K. Corral gunfight. 

Possessed of equal parts classic cowboy mythos and modern action movie machismo, "Tombstone" is that rarest of Western sagas that feels distinctly of the time, yet wholly indebted to films from eras past. It also finds Russell working alongside an insanely stacked supporting cast fronting Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott, Michael Biehn, and Val Kilmer, whose towering, endlessly quotable turn as Doc Holliday may be the biggest scene-stealing performance in the history of cinema. As it is, you won't find many movies that do what "Tombstone" does as well as "Tombstone" does it. But if you're looking for a kindred spirit of sorts, Kevin Costner's epic 1994 Western is a good place to start.

Wyatt Earp puts a slightly different spin on the mythos surrounding the legendary lawman

"Tombstone" is far from the first movie to explore the complex history of Wyatt Earp. In fact, the famed Colt .45-toting lawman has been a regular presence on the Western cinema scene dating back to the 1930s. As in "Tombstone," that famed O.K. Corral showdown is typically at the center of any tale of Earp's time in Arizona with few films bothering to explore the man's early days or his life thereafter. 

If "Tombstone" has a flaw, it's that the film is also hyper-focused on that same thrilling timeframe. As it happens, "Tombstone" wasn't the only movie to leverage Earp's story for the big screen in the 1990s, with Kevin Costner and his "Silverado" director Lawrence Kasdan tackling the subject just six months later. While the O.K. Corral is also a big part of their film, unlike most Earp-centric projects, the pair's sprawling Western saga "Wyatt Earp" took the time to explore the man's life on the whole, simultaneously bolstering and subverting Earp's mythology in the process.

Unfortunately, Costner and Kasdan also utilized an epic runtime in their exploration of Earp's life, delivering a 190-minute opus better fit for the arthouse than the multiplex. And audiences who went into their film expecting a modernized, high-octane Western cut from a similar cloth as "Tombstone" were less than enthused by the introspective, slow-burning beauty of "Wyatt Earp." As such, many dismissed the film as a bloated, underwhelming "Tombstone" knockoff.

Those comparisons aren't entirely fair as the films' have very different goals in mind. As such, it's also not fair to argue which flick does Earp's story more justice, though some might argue "Wyatt Earp" bests "Tombstone" in virtually every way, save for high-octane thrills and, of course, Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday. Track it down for yourself if you don't believe us.